Muskellunge
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • Close-up chin: There are usually 6-9 mandibular pores and 16-19 branchiostegal rays on each side.
  • Close-up snout: Notice that the spape of the snout is duck-billed.
  • Close-up head: Notice that only the upper portion of opercle and cheek is scaled.
  • Close-up flank: Notice the diffuse transverse vertical dark bars on a lighter background; flanks may also be solid or display spots.
  • Close-up chin: There are usually 6-9 mandibular pores and 16-19 branchiostegal rays on each side.
  • Side view of a young-of-year: Notice the "broken" vertical bars.
  • Side view of a young-of-year of the Great Lakes "spotted form".
  • Side view of a juvenile: Juveniles are similar to adults.
  • Alternative side view of an adult.
  • Alternative side view of the Great Lakes "spotted form".
  • Alternative side view of an adult.
  • Side view of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid (young-of-year): Notice the intermediate color/pigment patterns.
  • Side view of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the intermediate color/pigment patterns.
  • Side view of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the intermediate color/pigment patterns.
  • Close-up head of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the partially scaled cheek (intermediate).
  • Close-up underside of head of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the five pores per side (northern pike characteristic).
  • Side view of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the intermediate color/pigment patterns.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Family
Pikes (Esocidae)
Body
Mouth and snout: Duck-billed snout with terminal mouth; numerous conspicuous teeth in jaws. No barbels. Body patterning, color, and scales: Solid light olive or dark olive/black vertical bars or diffuse dark spots (but see Juveniles). Belly cream or white. Fins yellowish- or reddish-brown; dorsal, anal, and tail with diffuse dark spots. 130-157 (usually 147-155) cycloid lateral scales. Body shape and size: Body elongate and cylindrical; in cross section approximately round. Typically 750-1150 mm (30-46 in) TL; maximum in Wisconsin about 1500 mm (60 in).
Fins
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Forked tail. Single dorsal with no spines and 15-19 principal rays. Pelvic fins abdominal. Adipse fin absent. Anal fin with 14-16 principal rays.
Distinguishing Characteristics
See similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Similar to non-breeders.
Juveniles
Small juveniles with irregular light lateral stripe on a darker mottled background. Larger juveniles with incomplete or broken transverse dark vertical bars or irregular columns of diffuse spots on a silvery or olive background.
Hybrids
Northern pike X muskellunge.
Compare Similar Species
Opercle and Cheek Scalation
MuskellungeOnly top portion of cheek and opercle scaled
Pickerel, GrassBoth fully scaled
Pike, NorthernCheek fully scaled, only top portion of opercle scaled
Mandibular Pores (Single Side of Jaw)
Muskellunge6-9
Pickerel, Grass4, rarely 3 or 5
Pike, Northern5, rarely 4 or 6
Branchiostegal Rays (One Side)
Muskellunge16-19
Pickerel, Grass10-14, usually 12
Pike, Northern14-16
Adult Color Pattern
MuskellungeEither solid light olive color or dark vertical bars (may be faint) or spots on light background; no bar below eye
Pickerel, GrassDark mottled or irregular dark vertical bars; dark vertical bar below eye
Pike, NorthernRegular rows of oval light spots on dark green background; no or faint bar below eye
Similarity Index
MuskellungeN/A
Pickerel, GrassVery similar
Pike, NorthernVery similar
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